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2018 Pitcher Projections Revisited

Featured Image Courtesy of AP Photo/Nah Y. Huh

Last week I posted my results from my 2018 hitter projections. This week, I take a look at the results from the 2018 season in respect to my pitcher projections. I did not include the relief pitchers that I projected and removed any projections for pitchers under 85-90 innings (either actual 2018 IP or projected IP). Of course, injuries are more prevalent with pitchers so I only have 68 SPs in the attached google sheet (link below).


What I’ve learned in my two years of calculating baseball projections is that pitchers are difficult to project. More difficult than hitters (duh). I mentioned in the hitters’ post that I will be projecting more player in 2019. My goal is over 400, but shooting for 450. That makes at least 150 pitchers which should lead to an overall better review at the conclusion of the 2019 season. People have asked what projection model I use, and it’s more of a combination of many different models to make it my own. I use everything from past performance, batting order, team context, injury history, xStats, batted ball profile, plate discipline, trends, etc. Anyways, here’s a couple SPs on both sides of the projection spectrum.

2018 Pitcher Projections vs Actual (IP, Wins, ERA, WHIP, SO) (click-bait)

Carlos Carrasco (SP – CLE)

Proj 186 16 3.43 1.12 204
Actual 192 17 3.38 1.13 231

Two years ago, Carrasco was considered an injury risk with just one season of at least 150 innings between 2011 and 2016. After the 2018 season, he now has two straight 190+ inning seasons both with at least 30 starts. Maybe my innings projection of 186 was risky but half of his injuries over the previous five seasons were fluky. What really catches my eye is Carrasco’s strikeout total with a strikeout rate of 29.5%, almost 5% over his career rate. Even though Carrasco will be age-32 when the 2019 season starts, he’s one of the more steady SPs and will most likely be had at a discount. He’s pitching better now that he ever has before and it’s backed up by a career-low 69% (nice) contact rate. I’m looking to snag CC (not Sabathia) as the 8th or 9th SP off the board.

Rich Hill (SP – LAD)

Proj 141 10 3.57 1.10 156
Actual 132.2 11 3.66 1.12 150

Lance McCullers Jr. (SP – HOU)

Proj 134 9 3.68 1.29 142
Actual 128.1 10 3.86 1.17 142

I’m lumping Hill and McCullers Jr. together because of their similar injury histories. My model was able to accurately project innings based on multiple years of lower but consistent innings totals. It’s interesting that I pegged McCullers strikeouts but was a bit off on ERA and WHIP. The WHIP projection was high because I didn’t anticipate that McCullers would successfully improve his control given his nasty breaking ball, and that was true. His low WHIP was due to his BABIP that went from .330 to .278. It’s safe to say I won’t be projecting more than 140 innings for McCullers in 2019. The Rich Hill story and the journey is an incredible one, I suggest you read up on how he got to this point.  Similar to McCullers, Hill puts up very good numbers but fails to throw a ton of innings. At what point will this all go belly up? Hill will turn 39 just before the 2019 season. I think one more season of around 120 innings with solid ratios is in order before the end for Hill.



Jameson Taillon (SP – PIT)

Proj 185 12 3.50 1.15 164
Actual 191 14 3.20 1.18 179

Back in late November 2017, I wrote a sleeper post about Taillon. I highlighted his above-average fastball, ground ball tendencies, and his insanely high second-half BABIP. I knew there was positive regression coming for Taillon but did not account for the addition of the slider (which he introduced it in late May). While the slider didn’t unlock a bump in K-rate last year, I think it will help increase his strikeouts for 2019. He’s already climbed high on big boards, so, unfortunately, he won’t come at a discount.

Dallas Keuchel (SP – HOU)

Proj 178 14 3.80 1.21 159
Actual 204.2 12 3.74 1.31 153

On the opposite end of the sleeper/bust spectrum, there’s Keuchel. Two main points I made with Keuchel were the health concerns and the razor-thin margins of his control. Without the luxury of missing bats, Keuchel’s success lies in his ability to induce ground balls at a rate almost no one else has achieved. Sure enough, his groundball rate went from 66.8% to 53.7% and his strikeout rate dipped yet again. Now, he did stay healthy, but the rest of my projections were nearly spot on. I cannot recommend Keuchel for 2019, there’s very limited upside.

Did not project well

Marcus Stroman (SP – TOR)

Proj 198 13 3.69 1.25 169
Actual 102.1 4 5.54 1.48 77

Carlos Martinez (SP – STL)

Proj 203 15 3.52 1.20 208
Actual 118.2 8 3.11 1.35 117

Ok, so Stroman was lost to injury and Martinez went sent to the bullpen mid-season. That’s tough to project, especially for Martinez who was essentially dubbed the Ace of the Cardinals’ budding staff. Despite Storman’s small stature, he threw over 200 innings in 2016 & 2017, so naturally, I project him for just under 200 innings. We know he isn’t a strikeout artist, but wow, those ratios took a tumble as well. The only thing I learned here is that pitching is so volatile, but we already knew that. Martinez’ projection wasn’t all that bad other than the innings differential thanks to the move to the bullpen. A huge jump in his walk rate is the reason for a bump in WHIP. Martinez is going to be tough to project in 2019, he should be back in the rotation, but his poor control makes for a wild ride.



Blake Snell (SP – TB)

Proj 177 11 3.81 1.28 182
Actual 180.2 21 1.89 0.97 221

I liked Snell coming into the year, I wrote a sleeper post on him in December. So, do I really have to take the L on him if I was higher than most coming into the season? No one expected Snell to win the AL Cy Young prior to the start of the season, and if you did, you should have made a pretty penny. Just look at those numbers! The best stat that proves how much better Snell was in 2018 is the K-BB%. In 2017 his K-BB% was 11.0% (slightly below average) and in 2018 it sored to 22.4% (elite). That and his overall contact rate went down 8.1%. For 2019, there’s regression coming, but how much? Is he a top 10 SP? I’m about to dive into my 2019 pitcher projections, so we will have to find out.

Chris Archer (SP – TB/PIT)

Proj 195 12 3.78 1.23 232
Actual 148.1 6 4.31 1.38 162

Less than one month into the season, I knew that Archer was going to be a bust. I wasn’t high on him in the preseason with my projections above, but there certainly wasn’t enough there to completely steer me away from him either. In June, I put together a blind resume article for FantasyPros comparing Archer to Tyler Skaggs. Believe it or not, Skaggs’ numbers looked a hell of a lot better. Even the move to Pittsburgh couldn’t resurrect his season. Archer saw his K% drop to its lowest since 2014 and while I expect a bit of a bounceback in that department based on the plate discipline, Archer needs to develop a third pitch before I can trust him. I think there will be too many five-inning outings without much of a chance for a win. Expect an ERA between 3.80-4.10 with a solid K rate, but that’s about it.



Weekly Rundown – Chris Arrrrrrcher Walks the Plank




Welcome back to another round of the Weekly Rundown! A lot to cover this week and I want to start by saying I was dead wrong about Javier Baez this year. As a Cubs fan, I had seen too much of how reckless he was at the plate, not looking like he had a plan. He swings at everything and plays like his hair is on fire. As a fantasy writer, his plate approach still makes no sense to me, but I love that he’s doing it and is clearly inside the top 3 for the NL MVP.

Hot Hitters
I have to lead with Trea Turner who is running wild with 8 steals in the last 7 days! He’s also hitting .339 with a home run and 9 runs this week. I kept Turner inside my top 10 through the May Rankings but dropped him to about 15 overall in my All-Star ranks and now I’m kicking myself. A player with 60-steal speed with 20-homer power in an era where no one steals is fantasy gold. I had Turner ranked #3 overall in the preseason and while he won’t reach those heights thanks to Trout, Ramirez and Betts, I think he ends up inside the top 10.

Oh my goodness Rougned Odor! Odor has 5 homers, 10 runs, and 10 RBI this past week with a .421 average and a 1.642 OPS! What’s most impressive is that he walked 5 times in a single game AND hit a homer! This is a guy who typically walks 30 times a year. Yeah, nobody is hotter than Odor right now. He’s walking more and luck is more on his side this year. I expected a bounce back from Odor and he’s finally proving me right! Expect him to slow a bit, but should still end up close to 20 homers and 15 steals.

50 year-old Nelson Cruz has 5 more home runs this week with 9 RBI. OK, he’s not 50, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still hitting homers at ago 50. What’s amazing about Cruz is the fact that his first MLB home run was hit at ago 26 and he wasn’t even a regular player until he was 30 years old! He’s managed to hit 351 home runs in his career. That’s basically in nine and a half seasons. Now at 38, nothing’s really changed. He’s actually making more contact inside the zone and while I don’t expect him to hit .290, I’d love to see him reach 40 bombs for the fourth time in five years.

Trey “Boom Boom” Mancini is actually hitting with 3 homers and 6 RBI this past week. I didn’t love Mancini coming into the year after his impressive rookie season, but I expected some better numbers. This is what happens when a .352 BABIP comes crashing down. His average goes from .293 to .231. Mancini has no speed and hits 55% of his batted balls on the ground. That’s not going to be a recipe for success. He also doesn’t make a ton of hard contact and his plate approach is the same as last year. It’s regression to the mean for Mancini, he can be left on waivers. I’ll have to call him Trey Meh-cini.


Daniel Palka (who?) is hitting .500 with 2 homers and 7 RBI this week in only 10 at-bats. Palka is kind of a meaty human being. He’s crushing baseballs though and he’s tied with Matt Davidson in home runs with 16 with 70 less plate appearances. Remember Matt Davidson? He hit 3 HR on Opening Day and had 6 in the first week? OK, here’s my analysis of Palka. He’s a classic free-swinging slugger. Palka has a poor approach with a lot of swing and miss in his game. His contact rate is trash and he hits a few too many popups. He’s a deep league flier if you need power, that’s about it.

Christian Yelich is rocking .367 batting average with 3 homers and 9 runs plus 5 RBI this week. He’s been elevated thanks to a .500+ BABIP in the last three weeks but I’m not selling Yelich. I was asked the other day is Yelich is a sell-high candidate. I basically said, HELL NO. I think Yelich is just reaching his potential. Remember, he’s only 26 years old, he’s hitting the ball harder than ever, and is 13 out of 15 on the bases. I think Yelich is a .300-25-20 player this year and for the next half-decade, especially now that he’s in Milwaukee.

Hot Pitchers
Carlos Carrasco is on fire with a 0.66 ERA with 18 strikeouts and a WHIP below 1.00 in his last two starts. If you were able to buy him when he was rolling with a 4.00+ ERA then kudos to you! Carrasco is the same pitcher he was last year, except he’s getting more swings outside the zone. That’s great but he’s also giving up more hard contact and less soft contact. That may explain the small bump in home run rate and WHIP. Otherwise, his K%-BB% is still elite and he should be a top 10 SP the rest of the way.

Justin Verlander did not have a great start a week ago but he was Str8 Ballin’ last night against the Dodgers. He struck out 14 batters and allowed a solo homer to Yung Joc Pederson. That gives JV 21 strikeouts in his last two starts. So guess what? Former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is having the best season of his career. Oh and he’s 35 years old. He’s one win shy of 200 for his career, which in today’s game is quite a feat. His K%-BB% is a crazy 29%! If that was his strikeout rate, it would rank 11th in MLB! Did I mention he married Kate Upton after the World Series last year? JV has successfully lived out everyone’s fantasies. #LIFEGOALS

I guess I’m forced that mention Trevor Richard of the Miami Marlins. Who, you ask? You know, Garrett’s brother, I’m JK, I don’t think they are related because Trevor would already be on the DL if that were the case. Anyways, my man TR has spun 11 innings of one run ball with 15 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.00. He’s actually been great for three straight starts now. Here’s the deal, Richards is 25 and has decent strikeout potential and showed good control in the minors. He’s been wild since the call up, so I’d expect some positive regression there. I don’t think I believe in the low HR/FB continues, even in Marlins Park. He might be more interesting next year but for this year is just a streamer.

German Marquez has a 2.45 ERA with a 0.65 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in his last two starts. If you read my blog, you know how I try to avoid Rockies pitchers like the plague. However, Marquez has managed a K/9 near 9.5, so he at least deserves some attention. Did you know Marquez is only 23 years old and has 300 ML innings under hit belt? Here are the pluses, his O-Swing is up, first-pitch-strike is up, and SwStr% is up. The bad, the HR/FB is up to almost 19% and his only plus pitch is his slider. I still can’t trust him, but will gladly stream him on the road.


Rick Porcello just threw a complete game shutout against the Yankees and in his last 14.2 IP with 4 ER with only 7 base runners and 14 Ks. Porcello is basically the same pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young back in 2016. Listen, we all know he shouldn’t have won and was relatively fortunate, but the fact remains, he’s been good. He’s lower his fastball usage to around 20% and he’s throwing his slider about 25% of the time, that’s great. He’s pretty capped with his strikeout rate, but keeps the walks in check. I like him as a top 35 starter ROS.

Freezing Cold Hitters
Ryon Healy is hitting a pathetic .091 with no homers, 1 RBI, and a 1 run this week. This is Healy you guys! I get that he has power, but his approach is trash and he has no speed whatsoever. His BABIP is sitting around .250 and should rebound a little bit higher, but up to what, maybe .270? Ok, so Healy is a .245 hitter with 25-28 HR power. I’m just not a big fan, you can find his production on the wire. I personally hope he gets to 30 HR this year so he can be over-drafted next year.

Through the first half, Matt Kemp was doing his best Return of the Mac impression. What happened to all the Matt Kemp hype talk? He’s down to .045 this week with no homers and RBI and 1 run. That’s not great. Is Kemp’s age finally catching up with him? Eh, not so much. He is swinging and missing a little more since the start of July, but he’s hitting the ball as hard as ever. He’s not hitting as many fly balls, but it’s coming in the form of line drives. He looks like he will be fine. I think he can hit .275 with solid power these last two months.

Eddie “Not so Money” Rosario is 3 for his last 25 with no homers or steals in that last 7 days. I don’t love Rosario’s aggressive approach, but he makes a lot of contact, so it works for him. His speed has slowed down considerably, at one point it was looking like Rosario was going to hit 35 homers and steal 18 bases. Now, he’s on pace for 25-26 homers and 10-11 steals, or basically the same as last year. His chase rate is up to an awful 42% and his zone% is 41.4%, so pitchers aren’t throwing him as many strikes and he’s chasing them. He’s only hitting .256 with 1 home run since July 1, plus his K% is up 4%. I would have sold him a couple weeks ago, but since his numbers are still solid on the season, maybe you can still sell relatively high.

Starling Marte was looking like he was going to lead the league in steals until TreaT Urner decided to go nuts this week. In the last 7, Marte has no homers, no steals, no RBI, and 2 runs, thanks to a 3 hit night last night. Marte is fine you guys, his fly ball and hard contact rates are up and as a result, he’s hitting for power. Marte typically gets at least one day off per week because he’s often injured/banged up, but that’s fine. He’s still going to hit 20-22 HR with 35 steals. No one will complain about that.

Max Muncy is back on the cold list for the second straight week after getting huge Mass Appeal. He’s only 3 for his last 19 without a homer and hitting .163 the last two weeks. This is actually concerning, after people we calling for Muncy as the NL MVP. The additions of Machado and Dozier along with the return of Justin Turner are squeezing Muncy out of some playing time. Chris Taylor may also feel it as well, but Taylor is better defensively and Muncy is struggling right now. Muncy is going through the struggles similar to Rhys Hoskins at the end of September last year. Muncy is chasing more pitches and making less contact, and of course the K rate bumps up as a result. I’m worried about playing time but if the Dodgers keep playing him, he’ll get himself out of it. I’m still on the Muncy bandwagon.


Freezing Cold Pitchers
Chris Archer has some new digs and after one start but I’d rather have him walk the plank. Archer got pummeled and struggled with control against the Cardinals. At least he’s not facing the Red Sox and Yankees, right guys? Well, to be fair, he’s getting BABIP’ed a bit in the past month but that doesn’t change my mind on Arrrrrrrrrrrcher. LOL, sorry had to do it. He’s striking less batters out, giving out more walks and doesn’t have a third pitch he trusts. Its well documented that the lack of that third pitch is forcing him out of games early and adding walks to the mix is really shortening his outings and killing his ratios. No thank you, Bucco. 

It’s been a great career for King Felix but I think he’s soon to become a pauper. Felix has given up 9 ER in his last 7.2 IP and his ERA is up to 5.49 for the season. He’s been dealing with some back luck in terms of strand rate but he’s not inducing much weak contact and his velocity is down 1.5 mph this year. He’s either injured or his career may be just about over. This is a cat that used to throw 95 mph on the regular and can’t even average 90 mph anymore. I’m sensing a DL stint is coming followed by an attempt to come back next year. Then…..retirement.

Marcus Stroman has given up 9 ER in his last 11.2 IP with a whopping 18 hits against. He somehow hasn’t allowed a homer in either start, but his ground ball tendencies are really working against him in Toronto. It’s not all his fault that the Blue Jays infield defense is trash, but it’s also not changing this year. I wouldn’t own him in anything deeper than 12-team leagues, there just isn’t enough upside with his low strikeout totals.

Andrew Cashner is anything but Straight Cash-ner Homie. How does 12 ER in his last 2 starts sound? How about a 2.35 WHIP in those two starts? Did you think his 3.40 ERA in Texas last year was for real? I apologize for all the questions, but this is a guy who probably had the luckiest season on record last year. A 4.64 K/9 and a 3.6 BB/9, with a 91.6% Z-Contact and a 6.1% SwStr rate make me sick. Those look like an elite hitter like Jose Ramirez. So Cashner was putting up elite hitter numbers, but was a pitcher. Is that bad? OK, no more questions. He’s just BAD.

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